British politics has never been of much interest to me. Like most people I have had a casual interest in the occasional parliamentary spats that see the speaker bellowing “Order, Order” while insults are traded by political opponents. The pomp and ceremony of the ‘mother of all parliaments’ does hold a certain quizzical charm. The ceremonial of opening day with Queen Elizabeth arriving in regal splendour and the ‘dramatis personae’ of the Lords in full costume offers a somewhat anachronistic spectacle that seems to very much belong to a world that has ceased to exist. But perhaps a little pageantry is no harm if that’s what floats your boat. For me it’s a little too reminiscent of Leonard Sachs and the TV variety show ‘The Good Old Days’ (which ran from 1963 to 1983) where the audience turned up in full Victorian costumes to be regaled by clowns, acrobats and a variety of other acts, harmless nostalgic fun!
In more recent times however we on this side of the Irish Sea have developed more than a passing interest in the machinations of British politics as the implications of the decision of 51.9% of the 46 million who voted to leave the EU have become all too real. Despite the best efforts of a beleaguered Teresa May to arrive at agreed terms for the divorce, no agreement has been reached and it seems that a walkout is now very much on the cards. Messy divorces can often generate bad blood on both sides with no ‘winners’.
The EU with all its tensions and imperfections did succeed in uniting nations that just 75 years ago were bitter enemies in a devastated Europe. Let’s hope that Britain’s departure is not the harbinger of the break-up of all that has been achieved.
Brexit of course presents particular challenges for our Island, if Northern Ireland as part of the UK exits the EU, the real danger of a return to a physical border along our 499Km shared boundary line looms, and that risks resurrecting a scenario we had all said ‘good riddance’ to. Our own politicians seem nervous these days and despite repeated assurances from Westminster that ‘there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland’; perhaps we’ve known or neighbours a little too long and too well to take what they say on face value? To return to the divorce metaphor, they’re not hanging around however upsetting for the kids caught in the crossfire! So what it all will mean is uncertain. Financially it will certainly impact and could result in business ties being severed to the detriment of Irish and British livelihoods. Equally, if not more worrying is the dangers it poses to community relations on our Island.
We have come a long way in the past thirty years and that has to be down in part to a shared identity that managed to emerge above the traditional tribal divide. We were Nationalists, yes, we were Unionists, yes, but we were also fellow Europeans who could pass unhindered into our mutual territories and that undoubtedly brought a new openness and freedom. What a shame that that’s under threat. As I write this piece it’s the eve of ‘the glorious twelfth’ It will be interesting to see if the celebrations this year will reflect the present uncertainties in any negative way. Let’s hope not! You’ll know by the time you read this.
St. Mary’s, Lucan